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I find it aggravating that WebAIM will be presenting at this year's CSUN (International Technology and Persons with Disabilities Conference) on "The Myth of the Typical Screen Reader User", since its representatives on the WebAIM mailing list have made it very clear that they believe there IS a typical screen reader user: a computer illiterate technophobe with total lack of agency who needs to be handheld for all computer use.

I also find it aggravating that CSUN isn't broadcasting any of the sessions. (You can charge people to see a webcast, you know!) Sure, they do seem to do a pretty good job for attendees with disabilities on site, but a lot of people with disabilities find it difficult to travel, you know? Not to mention how many people with disabilities have lower incomes than their able-bodied peers. A twitter feed is not a broadcast.
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For Disability Blog Carnival #59: Disability and Work:

Liz Henry tells us that October is Disability Employment Awareness Month in the United States. Who knew? I guess this is why my university's human resources newsletter this month has an article called "Accommodating Our Valuable Employees", all about the wonderful ways in which the human resources department jumps through hoops to adapt the environment for employees with disabilities. Someday I have to meet this department of which they write. </snark>

Anyway, I've written plenty on the frustrations of being a working person with disabilities, but I wanted to talk about some of the ways in which it's actually pretty awesome. Even I can't complain all the time. )
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
Is there any particular reason that archival collection management tools, vendor provided or open source, are all ridiculously inaccessible? I mean, Proficio appears to have gone entirely out of its way to rewrite a widget set in order to avoid Windows APIs on its Windows-only product, thus rendering it completely mouse driven. Archivist's Toolkit, you are designed in academia with public funding, and you don't even mention the word "accessibility" on your website. And most of the other collection management databases I've tested are just as bad. Would a little bit of keyboard-driveability or non-graphical navigation really kill you?

I mean, I'm not asking everybody to have Moodle's stance on accessibility, but... who am I kidding. I am absolutely asking you all to have Moodle's stance on accessibility.

Remember that time I burst into tears in a meeting because of development manager said "we can't make these decisions thinking about the 3% of our users who have accessibility needs" and I shouted "those 3% are ME, your coworker, sitting right here"? That's how I feel today. It's my job to test the software. It's my job to make recommendations to my coworkers about what product we should be using. And I can't use it.
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I have all of these half written posts I haven't made -- one about the Simmons College Summer Institute, one about Bloomsbury mercifully caving on their dreadful cover decision for Justine Larbalestier's Liar. But summer is coming to a close (already!), And I should just go ahead and post my syllabus for Children's Literature 414, Fantasy and Science Fiction.

Let me see. That's 41 fictional works, or 38 if you lump the Prydain books. As far as I know, and with some of these being judgement calls, 3 authors of color; 7 protagonists of color (8 if you count Laura Chant as multi-racial because of her Maori great-grandmother), 28 white or white-coded, and 2 neither; 20 female and 18 male authors; 16 male protagonists, 18 female, and 3 neither or multi; and 0 canonically queer authors or protagonists. Though there's one canonically-if-subtextually queer secondary couple. Also, three fat (if you count Wilbur) and two disabled (if not-neurotypical counts as disabled).

Obviously I'm better on some aspects of diversity than others. How much of the fail here is mine as opposed to the genre's? Probably a little of both. On the bright side, we spend a lot of the semester talking about these issues, both in ourselves as readers, and in the genre itself.
deborah: the Library of Congress cataloging numbers for children's literature, technology, and library science (Default)
I have 60 words in which to review a lengthy YA book which includes, in passing, hateful language which is totally in character for the protagonist (e.g. "fags," "spazzes in helmets"). The language is condemned neither by the text nor by any of the other characters; in fact, no attention is called to it at all within the text.

What I'm finding most problematic about this is not how to write the review. That's easy: I have 60 words, which means I tack on "bigoted" to one of my mentions of "the protagonist", which is about all I can do. No, what I'm finding most problematic is that this wouldn't have been an issue for me if the protagonist had been equally briefly and casually fatphobic, because I so take that for granted that I would have cringed and moved on. What's surprising in this book is that I don't actually expect over language of this sort to make it to the editing process without some kind of textual self-awareness being added. (I certainly am not surprised to find homophobia or ableism in contemporary YA, but more of the systemic kind, and not this sort.)

I know some people could make the same post and turn it into a judgment on the publishing industry for self-censorship, but I'm not one of them. I do think that language helps shape thought, and I think a raised eyebrow from another character or from the narrative voice could have clued in even the less aware reader that yes, the protagonist said "fags," and maybe that language is worth a second thought. I find it much more problematic that fatphobia is much more often treated with the same casual disregard this text gave to homophobia and ableism.



(Yes, I acknowledge that children's and young adult literature comprise a corpus created by adults for a group of readers who don't have control over their own literature and that we use their literature as a teaching tool. Like Nodelman, I find this both problematic and necessary.)
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I was lucky enough to see an early copy of Kristin Cashore's forthcoming Fire, which takes place in the same universe as her debut Graceling although substantially earlier. There are many things I could talk about when discussing what I love about this book. I could talk about how much I love the protagonist and the plot, which is true. I could talk about how squeeful it makes me for there to be incidentally disabled characters in this world. I could talk about how much I love Fire's unconventional character arc -- so unconventional, in fact, that even knowing Graceling as I did I fully expected a last-minute situational reprieve.

But instead of going to talk about what really fascinates me: how Fire is not a Mary Sue. Generally, that's not such a big deal. Most fictional characters aren't Mary Sues. But Fire ought to be. I just plugged her into one of the Mary Sue Litmus Tests and got a 96. If I hadn't read the book, but had somebody describe it to me, I would have yelled "Mary Sue! Mary Sue!" gleefully. Unusually colored hair? Check. Everyone loves her? Check.

And yet, ultimately, Fire is a fully realized and intensely flawed character, far more than the sum of her identifiably-Sueish traits. If I didn't know better, I'd see her as a reaction to litmus tests, almost as if the author said "these are bogus; I can write a character with all of these traits who is not a Sue at all". (Cue aside about authorial intent and how interesting it is to read her as a reaction to litmus tests even though I know she wasn't written that way.)

One of the things I love about Kristin Cashore's writing is how, while writing firmly within genre, she consistently breaks narrative expectations. Yet my love for Fire as a character who breaks out of Mary Sue tropes is a little bit silly, isn't it? After all, the clearly identified trope of Mary Sue doesn't come from conventional published original fantasy (although it certainly exists there as well). How can I read across genre-boundaries when I say that the text is breaking narrative expectations?

Here, of course, I'm the reader whose expectations have been so satisfyingly broken. I read both girls' fantasy and fan fiction, so I have narrative expectations that cross both genres. But the book itself certainly doesn't have an implied readership of fan fiction readers. Although that's not necessarily true. Given the marketing and demographic realities of current young readers of fantasy, there may well be an extremely large overlap between this book's implied readership and those who are familiar with the tropes of fan fiction, just as there is probably an extremely large overlap between this book's implied readership and those who are familiar with, say, High School Musical. Is that overlap relevant, though? Would Hunger Games be a different book if its implied audience weren't very likely to be familiar with Survivor-like reality shows?

I'm just thinking aloud here; I don't have answers to any of these questions.

Except to say that Fire was totally awesome.
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